Today the US National Soccer team played its counterpart from England. I would've liked to watch it, but I don't have the necessary cable service (by choice) and I didn't want to go into a sports bar. I think most of you could understand why.
Being a good American, I would've rooted for this country's team. But I don't expect them to win the tournament. Not many other people do, either. If and when the US team is eliminated, if Italy's still standing, I'll root for them. And after la forza azzuri, I'll root for les bleus of France. But if Brazil wins, I won't be upset.
However, I don't follow sports with the same passion I once did. I could blame the hormones and such, and Dirt and her ilk will say that I'm impersonating feminized behavior. Rather, it's harder to feel passion for pursuits and performers that have little, if anything, to do with my own life. Plus, professional sports is an overwhelmingly male field. Now, sometimes I don't mind that. After all, when you I someone like Lance Armstrong (who, by the way, I have seen in person and photographed climbing Chamrousse in the 2001 Tour de France) exerting himself and not wearing much while doing it, well, let's say I don't look the other way or think about strategy.
Anyway...oh, wait, you wanted serious intellectual discussion, didn't you? OK, here goes. Well, OK, what follows may not be terribly intellectual. But you might enjoy some of it. After all, it is about a bike ride. And you know how I love to ride, and to write about it!
Well, today I took another one of those aimless rambles that led me to some of the same streets three or four times and others in ways I hadn't expected. And somehow I ended up, after an hour and a half of pedalling my fixed-gear, here:
If you hear me or anyone else speaking in superlatives about this place, as some wise ol' philosopher once said, believe the hype. I have slurped lemon Italian ices in any number of communes in and out of this country. None come close to what they make in this place. Yes, they make the stuff themselves. And, yes, you're likely to find actual lemon in yours, just as you'll find pieces of whatever fruit went into whatever flavor you've ordred. (Their flavor list is in the window, to the right of the guys in white.) I haven't tried all of their flavors--somehow I just can't bring myself to eat an Italian ice with peanut butter in it--but the ones I've tried were all excellent: cherry, coconut, cremolata (like the ice cream), pistachio, cantaloupe, watermelon and a couple of others I can't think of right now. Lemon is, of course, the classic, and when you eat it, you realize just how good the ice is: It's elegant and, in its own way, pure--sort of like a beautifully done classic sauce, without any extra ingredients to detract from it. Of the other flavors, I like cherry the best. The office manager of my department likes the coconut ice.
It may not be Gatorade or an energy bar, but in its own way, it's the perfect snack to have during a ride: It's delicious and refreshing, but not too heavy. And, right across from LIKC, there's the perfect spot to enjoy it:
Yes, what better place to enjoy an Italian ice than in a park where older Italian men are playing bocce, watching their friends play it or simply passing the time of day? Now there's a sport. Imagine the sense of deja vu I had at the end of a day of ascending and descending Pyreneean peaks and seeing, in the parc de ville of a ville that was tres petite, a bunch of weathered but rather dignified men immersed in their day's petanque match.
Neither they nor the men I saw in Corona were making any money from making metal balls roll and sometimes skitter on strips of sand. Nor did the friends of my grandfather and uncles who played underneath the ancient railroad viaduct in my old Brooklyn neighborhood. But they were having as much serious fun, or were having as much fun about being serious, as anyone in Major League Baseball, the NBA or the English Premier League. Maybe more so.
Could this be Il Giro d'Italia meets Les Bourgeois de Calais?
But the determined faces were not just those of older men. On this day of major World Cup games, a couple of aspiring stars were in their own shootout:
I was scooping and slurping my sublime glacial confection on a bench about fifteen feet behind the kid in the red shirt. When the ball sailed by him and missed me and Tosca by less than the width of her handlebar, the kid turned and said, "I'm sorry, lady!"
Can you imagine some goalie in the World Cup doing that? Clint Dempsey's shot leaves Robert Green sprawled on his side and, after getting up and dusting himself off, he turns to the crowd, looks at a middle-aged female spectator and says, "Pardon me, ma'am"? Now that would be a World Cup moment!
Even Tosca would appreciate it:
Which reminds me: I caught her in just the right light and she showed something she shares with Arielle, my road bike:
You can see, at least somewhat, what makes their finishes unusual. They're both Mercian's Number 57, the so-called "flip-flop" finish. If you look at the top tube, you can see what happens to the color when the purple flips or flops, depending on your point of view.
In case you're interested: That's a single-speed freewheel on the left side. (Why am I bragging about that? I have no excuse: I have no more testosterone!) I haven't ridden it yet. On the bike's right is a fixed gear. I know I don't use the same gear ratio as anyone who's ever riden in Vigorelli, but what the hell.